Tall Dark Stranger delivered the quickest mile of the three $73,000 Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) Gold Divisions for two-year-old pacing colts on Saturday, Aug. 31 at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
Starting from post 7 with regular reinsman Yannick Gingras in the race bike, Tall Dark Stranger got away mid-pack as Aneto led the field of eight to a :26.1 opening quarter. The heavy favourite did not allow Aneto to control the pace for long however and the pair circled to control by the :55.4 half. Unchallenged through three-quarters in 1:23.4, Tall Dark Stranger accelerated away from his peers in the stretch to log a four-length victory. Aneto finished second and Night Watchman closed well to be third.
“The first time I sat behind him I really loved him. He’s got high speed and he’s such a strong horse,” Gingras said. “No doubt, he was very good tonight.”
Tall Dark Stranger is undefeated through four starts, with two of those victories coming in the Gold Series. The Bettors Delight son, a $330,000 purchase from the 2018 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale, will now turn his attention to open stakes action with the Sept. 7 Champlain Stakes and the Sept. 14 Metro Pace eliminations coming up at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
In an effort to make sure Tall Dark Stranger is fully prepared for the tests ahead, Gingras and trainer Nancy Johansson tested a piece of equipment on Saturday night that they had not used before. Halfway down the stretch Gingras pulled the colt’s ear plugs to ensure he knew to respond with a quick gear change.
“We talked about it Nancy and I. He’s never been kicked before and she’s like. ‘You know, just maybe during the race or after the race or at any point maybe try to kick them tonight’,” Gingras said. “You saw halfway down the stretch I kicked them out and he just got into another gear, and then he was just starting to get rolling at the wire.”
Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Caviart Farms and Howard Taylor share ownership of Tall Dark Stranger, who boosted his earnings to $104,533 with Saturday’s victory.
In the first Gold division Tattoo Artist shadowed favourite Examiner Hanover through fractions of :26.2, :56 and 1:23.4 and then squeezed up the cones when the pacesetter faltered in the stretch. Tattoo Artist and driver Sylvain Filion hit the wire one-half length ahead of Velocity Rukkus and My Land in 1:52.
“He’s a really nice little colt that fella,” said trainer Dr. Ian Moore. “He’s very baby-ish, he’s immature, but the month off probably helped him.”
Tattoo Artist was scratched out of the Aug. 16 Gold Series leg due to a bout of sickness that went through Moore’s barn. Prior to that his last start was in the July 29 leg of the Dream Maker Series where he finished eighth.
“He didn’t show much other than an odd cough, but when I scoped him he was loaded so I just made sure he had treatment and the time and I didn’t race him,” said Moore, who trains the winner of $102,283 for Frank Cannon and Let It Ride Stables Inc.
Saturday’s win was the second in Gold Series action for the son of Hes Watching, who also captured a division of the July 15 event at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Tattoo Artist started his career at the Grassroots level, winning a division of the July 5 season opener, also at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
The final Gold Series division of the night went to YS Mathis, who sprinted from sixth to first in the stretch and stopped the clock at 1:51.3. One For Julius finished two lengths back in second and pocket-sitter Bettor At Hightide was three and three-quarter lengths behind in third, edging out Wind Blown who had carved out fractions of :26.3, :56 and 1:23.3.
“This horse showed that he was a nice horse last week. He was the only Ontario Sired horse that did get a cheque in that big race last week (Nassagaweya),” said trainer Richard Moreau of the Sportswriter colt. “He’s like an aged horse, he knows his game.”
The win was the second of the season for YS Mathis and driver Louis-Philippe Roy, who also captured a division of the July 6 Gold Series season opener at Woodbine Mohawk Park for owner-breeder Yves Sarrazin of La Presentation, QC.
With two wins, one third and one sixth-place result in Gold action, YS Mathis currently leads the two-year-old pacing colt division with 115 points. Tall Dark Stranger, Tattoo Artist and Velocity Rukkus are tied for second with 100 points. The top 10 point earners following the last regular season Gold event, on Oct. 4 at The Raceway at Western Fair District, will advance to the Oct. 12 Super Final at Woodbine Mohawk Park.